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Emiratis Make Up Only 20 Percent of Their Own Country

The population of the United Arab Emirates has reached over 8 million, but 4 out of 5 are not citizens.

One in five people living in the United Arab Emirates is a citizen, a new report has found.

The UAE National Bureau of Statistics’ Report on Economic & Social Dimension has revealed that while the country’s population has soared to 8.1 million, almost doubling from 4.1 million in 2005, there has been no consequent increase in the number of Emirati citizens during the same person, remaining steady at around 20 percent of the total population.

The Emirates’ population growth is largely due to the influx of foreign workers, millions of whom flocked to the small Gulf state during its golden years ahead of the economic crisis in 2008.

A majority of the expats that have moved to the Emirates are single men from the Indian sub-continent who have come to work in construction or other labour intensive industries.

Western professionals that have moved to the country are found mostly in so-called ‘white collar’ jobs.

“In the long term these numbers are frightening as the population of expats seems to have grown despite the recession that the UAE economy is growing through,” Emirati columnist Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi told The Media Line. “Emiratis were glad that the recession hit to put the breaks on this seemingly unstoppable rate of growth of foreign migrant workers. Yet it seems that without an official government stance in limiting the numbers the situation will continue to exasperate.”

“While Emiratis are very accommodating and happy to count expatriates from all over the world amongst their friends, as well as being proud that their country is a destination for all those who seek a better life, the fact is this exponential growth is simply unsustainable,” he added. “Expatriates in general do not make a point of learning the local language or customs which creates a situation of Emirati culture and traditions being represented mostly on the official circles and less so in the social circles.”

The National Bureau of Statistics found that 81 percent of the county’s population is between the ages of 15 and 59, with just 1.3 percent above the age of 60.

“The resources of a desert country including the limited water supplies and the high rate of desalination as well as the environmental degradation amongst other issues pose a major challenge that the country is frankly unprepared for,” Al Qassemi said.

The report also found that while 79 percent of all expats work, only  45 percent of the nationals have jobs.

While the number of unemployed Emiratis is high, the report found that 20 percent of nationals are voluntary unemployed, with only 2.3 percent of citizens actively looking for a job. Emiratis tend to prefer work in the public sector, where job security is high and the hours short

Ganesh Seshan, Professor of Economics at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, said that absence of nationals engaged in economic activity is not having a major effect on the local economy. 

“We know the expatriate community is there to provide a service that nationals can’t or are not willing to do,” Ganesh Seshan, Professor of Economics at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, told The Media Line. “They have expertise that the nationals do not.”

“Even with the nationals not working, the needs of the economy are being meet by the expats workforce,” he said. “It does not affect the economy.”